Monday Mailbag: How will Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker fit in Lakers rotation

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The Los Angeles Lakers finally got a win in their 2021-22 campaign, outlasting the Memphis Grizzlies in a thriller at Staples Center. It was far from perfect but it was by far the Lakers’ most complete performance of the young season, capped off with a vintage Carmelo Anthony performance to lead the way.

Only one question from our readers this week but it’s a good one so let’s get started:

Last night the Lakers effectively went to a nine man rotation which is a bit shorter than Frank Vogel tends to like. Rajon Rondo did not play and Avery Bradley only got a couple of minutes as a desperation attempt to slow down Ja Morant.

The guards that did play – Russell Westbrook, Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk, and Austin Reaves – all seem like they should be fixtures in the rotation. Westbrook is Westbrook. Bazemore’s defense (even after a rough night against Morant) is too important. Monk had his best game of the season and has an explosive ability that most of the other role players don’t offer. Reaves is quickly becoming a Vogel favorite; he even got the Alex Caruso treatment of not playing at all in the third quarter to save him for the entirety of the fourth.

As for the guys that are missing due to injury, there’s still probably a role for them. Kendrick Nunn is expected to be the backup point guard who can be the secondary initiator in LeBron James-led bench lineups. If he does not pan out as expected, Rondo might be forced back into the rotation.

Talen Horton-Tucker can also play that role but he can also slide all the way down to the three as a wing defender, something the team is clearly lacking at the moment. He is a bit undersized for that role but his length should allow him to do an adequate job.

There is also the question of Trevor Ariza and Wayne Ellington. The latter may just be in the Ben McLemore role from last season where Vogel inserts him in the lineup when no one else’s threes are dropping. Ariza, however, was brought in to have a pretty major role on the defensive side of the floor as a small or power forward. Those minutes are going to be tough to carve out with LeBron James and Anthony Davis taking the majority of them and Carmelo Anthony getting a bug chunk of minutes as well.

If DeAndre Jordan gets benched like Lakers fans are practically begging for, then that frees up an extra spot in the rotation. James and Davis would be the starting four and five, respectively. Anthony and Dwight Howard would take the backup roles. And Ariza would be the third power forward as well as the starting or backup small forward. I would not expect the veteran to always feature heavily but against certain teams, he has defensive skillsets that are hard to find elsewhere on the roster.

Vogel will probably return to a ten man rotation once he gets his players back from injury. James, Davis, Westbrook, Howard, Bazemore, and Anthony seem to be locked in to be featured. That would leave four spots for Monk, Nunn, Horton-Tucker, and Reaves assuming Jordan eventually loses his spot and Rondo, Bradley, and Ellington continue to be emergency options.

Out of that group of four, I would say THT’s place is the most assured due to his versatility (and his contract). That said, I do think Reaves is very quickly becoming a player that Vogel can’t afford to drop out of his rotation. His defensive work rate, his shooting ability, and just the general composure he plays with as a rookie are all sorely needed for this roster and it sure seems like Vogel sees that as well.

That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Don’t forget to keep sending in questions throughout the week either through our Twitter or our email!

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